With a decade-old study abroad program, the Office of International Studies decided this semester that it was time for a makeover of the study abroad programs by introducing new programs and processes.

“International study is pretty hot right now,” said Dianna Wilson-Mosley, assistant director for the Office of International Studies. “Students are seeing the benefits of what that looks like on graduate program applications. It’s the direction that more and more people are moving in.”

Unlike the past two years, Wilson-Mosley said, students will now attend three mandatory pre-departure orientations that will better prepare them abroad. Topics will include stereotyping and self-awareness. OIS will separate the study abroad basics from other orientations that will focus on site-specific cultural issues. Meetings will occur year round and will be open to all students, regardless if they choose to study abroad.

“We’ll discuss the trends, the politics, the currency — even encourage students to look at the pop culture and watch movies and read the newspapers,” Wilson-Mosley said. “We want students to just really become very involved so that when they get there, they’re not having to catch up.”

The new meetings will finally include budgeting abroad, personal safety, health issues and logistics.

“We want to make sure students really feel that they have ownership in the program,” Wilson-Mosley said.

With their office located off campus on Research Parkway, students haven’t had easy access to OIS. But now, OIS is moving into Millican Hall.

“That is going to be fantastic for students because it’s been difficult for them to find us, and I think that having that prime location will let students know what their options are a little more readily,” Wilson-Mosley said.

OIS offers 17 countries as study abroad destinations.

They include short-term studies of about four weeks each to exchanges that are semester-long.

Tuesday’s meeting also mentioned the study abroad fair on Nov. 17.

Florida State University, which has 50 years of international studies experience, as well as the University of South Florida, will attend the event in the Pegasus Ballroom.

UCF’s Sophomore and Second Year Center will now also partner with OIS for a sophomore experience abroad.

Academic advisers have designed this course as an interdisciplinary one with an emphasis on leadership. Now, sophomores in any major can explore study abroad options.

A Western Civilization course is yet another OIS innovation being introduced to give any student a chance to fulfill their General Education Program credits abroad.

These new implementations are a result of the steadily increasing demand for study abroad opportunities.

Annual student turnouts remain on the rise and last year, more than 500 students participated in study abroad programs.

The deterrent for that number to dramatically increase: lack of scholarships.

Although OIS distributed 61 merit and need-based awards from UCF last year, limited scholarships hinder every prospective student from studying abroad.

According to Maria Grazia Spina, an instructor for the College of Arts and Humanities, the only problem with studying abroad is money.

Students return excited about their travels and spread them through word of mouth. But, when new students calculate how much a trip will cost, she said insufficient funds become the only drawback.

Still, Spina is not completely discouraged about future study abroad trips. She has traveled with her classes since 2003 to Italy, France and Austria for language, literature and civilization courses.

“Study abroad is key to truly master a foreign language,” Spina said. Her class is already scheduled to travel to Vienna during the summer B semester.

Students at the Study Abroad Basics meeting remained attentive and optimistic about future study abroad programs.

Lindsey Aronson, a freshman psychology major, said she wants to study in a Spanish-speaking country to help her perfect the language, which is her minor.

More so, OIS has ‘post-departure’ meetings in the works. Wilson-Mosley explained OIS’s fresh collaboration with the Career Services office.

For the first time this semester, students who have been abroad will have the opportunity to come back and talk to Career Services about how to articulate the value of their study abroad to potential employers and graduate programs.

“It’s going to be more than just saying ‘I went to the Eiffel Tower,’ ” Wilson-Mosley said.

Source: Central Florida Future, UCF Study Abroad program gets redesign, by Carolina Navarro, contributing writer. Published: Sunday, November 7, 2010; Updated: Sunday, November 7, 2010 20:11